Sunday, September 28, 2008

COME PLAY GRANDMA’S ECONOMY GAME


My grandmother and mother both lived through the ‘great depression’ and learned some very hard fiscal lessons. Money was scarce but taxes still had to be paid on land or the family homestead would be forfeited and sold to pay the taxes, jobs were non-existent or paid very little if you could find one, often workers were paid in local script and that ‘money’ didn’t pay the federal tax bills. Hopefully we won’t experience these dire circumstances again but we can all use some of the lessons to increase our financial well-being.

They lived by some of the sayings that we now call clich├ęs and ignore because we’ve heard them so often. In this series I’m going to examine some of these sayings and see if they are still beneficial today.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

I know that we’ve all heard this saying so let’s start by analyzing it. In today’s world a penny isn’t even worth picking up – or is it? If we find a penny on the ground and pick it up we’ve gained a little much needed exercise but we’ve also gained a penny that the government isn’t going to tax us for earning. So that penny is automatically worth more than a penny because we haven’t paid income taxes on it or social security (FICA) taxes on it. That probably makes this penny worth at least 1.15 cents or more. Now if we save this penny and put it into our savings account it will start to earn compound interest and be working for us immediately. Just imagine, if we find a lot of pennies, we have increased our wealth by just bending over and picking them up and saving them.

Now if we apply this saying to our spending habits by thinking before we spend our hard earned money, we can increase our wealth by putting the pennies we’ve saved into a savings account and again use the power of compound interest.

About now I can see you jumping up and down and saying, “But I have too much month for my money right now. I can’t save anything because I need every penny for current expenses!”

I won’t question that this is the case but we are on a mission to fix that problem. I hope that some of what I’m writing about will help you accomplish financial freedom from overwhelming bills and money worries.

How do we determine if we are saving money or overspending our income? One of the easiest ways is to write down every purchase for at least a month and then look at where your money is going. Am I spending it on espresso coffee? Cigarettes? Movies? Eating out? Beer? Snack foods? Rent? Gas? Car payments? Or….?

Once I have this information then I can see where my budget is leaking or hemorrhaging money. As a famous TV psychologist is fond of saying, “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge”. Information about my spending habits is the first step to fixing the problem. After analyzing my monthly expenses here is the next step.

If you are married and/or have children, it is important to involve the whole family in the debt reduction process. Children need to learn about money matters and how to handle their finances and if you work as a family then everyone has a sense of accomplishment as the piggy bank fills.

NOTE: If you have very small children set aside a small percentage of the savings for a reward the whole family can enjoy so that they see an immediate result of saving.

THE PIGGY BANK GAME

Now you are ready to start playing the Piggy Bank Game. Start playing by picking at least one thing that you are going to reduce or stop buying for at least one month. See how many things you can find that you should or could reduce. If you have an espresso coffee every morning ask yourself if you could make it at home for less money and be just as satisfied. If you smoke, could you cut down one or two cigarettes a day? If you rent movies a lot, could you use the public library and check them out instead. That is free!!!

Once you have determined what you are saving on this month, set up a piggy bank to put your savings into each day. Your piggy bank doesn’t need to be an actual piggy even though that would be fun – use a can with a lid, a jar or whatever you have on hand. You DON’T need to go buy a piggy bank – remember this is about saving money, not spending it!

Paying into the piggy bank is your visible reward for reaching your daily goal. If you drink one less espresso a week, put that amount of money into the piggy bank the day you skipped your espresso. If you smoked two less cigarettes, put the cost of those cigarettes into the piggy bank.

There are three rules to this game:
1. Pay yourself every time you save on what you have determined is your item you are reducing or stopping for the month.
2. Put the money in the piggy bank daily.
3. DO NOT remove any money from the piggy bank until the end of the month.

Once you have done this exercise for a month, count the money in the piggy bank and then take it directly to the bank and put it into your savings account. This is your first step towards economic freedom. Pat yourself on the back and get ready for next month and see if you can save even more.

It is important to continue keeping a spending record of what you are spending each day so you can analyze how you are doing at the end of each month.

Since I like to put a picture into every article and I didn't have a bowl or piggy bank in my shop, I used this beautiful blue felted bowl that is for sale in TanisAlexis shop on Etsy as an illustration of something you could use as a piggy bank. Here is the link to this bowl and other awesome items. http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?ref=sr_list_13&listing_id=10715266 She is a member of my awesome EcoEtsy Street Team.

Watch for my next article and please leave a comment if you have found this helpful or not.

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